President Barack Obama held an unusual nominating announcement in the East Room of the White House today. It was unusual that all the participants addressed the White House press, including outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
President Obama announced former Republican United States Senator from Nebraska, Chuck Hagel, for Secretary of Defense. In the same announcement, the President nominated John Brennan as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). John O. Brennan currently serves as Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Special Assistant to the President on Counterterrorism.
However, President Obama started off the announcement by singling out Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta for his service and outstanding performance. It was truly appropriate that Panetta be in attendance because he also served as President Obama's first Director of the CIA.
"I am especially grateful to Leon Panetta, who has led the CIA and our military with incredible skill," said the President. "Leon, after nearly five decades of service, you have more than earned the right to return to civilian life."
Secretary Leon Panetta said that after "close to 50 years of serving the American people -- began in 1964 when I served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army, and then in both the legislative and executive branch positions in Washington -- the time has come for me to return to my wife Sylvia, our three sons, their families, our six grandchildren, and my walnut farm -- (laughter) -- dealing with a different set of nuts."
The others that also addressed the White House Press included President Obama, Chuck Hagel, John O. Brennan, and Acting Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Michael Morell.
Both men, Chuck Hagel and John O. Brennan are personally close to the President, and in the case of John Brennan, the most trusted advisor to the President on matters of homeland security and terrorism.
In announcing the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense and John Brennan for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, President Obama called the choices "key members of my national security team."
President Obama cited Chuck Hagel's military service and pointed out that as head of the Department of Defense, Chuck Hagel would be the "first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense." President Obama also pointed out that Hagel would be "first Vietnam veteran to lead the department."
"Chuck Hagel is the leader that our troops deserve," said President Obama. "He is an American patriot. He enlisted in the Army and volunteered for Vietnam. As a young private, and then a sergeant, he served with honor, alongside his own brother."
He also cited Chuck Hagel's sacrifice for the nation. "When Chuck was hit by shrapnel, his brother saved him. When his brother was injured by a mine, Chuck risked his life to pull him to safety. To this day, Chuck bears the scars -- and the shrapnel -- from the battles he fought in our name."
President Obama said that in Chuck Hagel, America would have "a champion of our troops and our veterans and our military families. As a leader at the VA, he fought to give our veterans the benefits they deserved. As head of the USO, he devoted himself to caring for our troops. Having studied under the GI Bill himself, he helped lead the fight for the Post-9/11 GI Bill so today’s returning heroes can get their education, too. Having co-chaired my Intelligence Advisory Board, he knows that our armed forces collect, analyze, and depend on good intelligence."
President Obama also cited Chuck Hagel's business experience that will serve him in the Department of Defense leadership. "As a successful businessman, he also knows that even as we make tough fiscal choices, we have to do so wisely, guided by our strategy, and keep our military the strongest fighting force the world has ever known."
President Obama also had high praise for one of his most trusted White House advisors and friend, John Brennan. "A 25-year veteran of the CIA, John knows what our national security demands -- intelligence that provides policymakers with the facts, strong analytic insights, and a keen understanding of a dynamic world."
President Obama added that Brennan's "extensive experience and travels -- which include, by the way, traveling through the Arabian Peninsula where he camped with tribesmen in the desert -- John has an invaluable perspective on the forces -- the history, the culture, the politics, economics, the desire for human dignity driving so much of the changes in today’s world."
President Obama credited Brennan with many of the key accomplishments of the Obama Administration. "More al Qaeda leaders and commanders have been removed from the battlefield than at any time since 9/11. Their communications, recruiting, training, finances are all under enormous strain -- all of which makes it harder to plan and carry out large-scale attacks against our homeland."
President Obama joked about Brennan's work ethic. "John has been tireless. People here in the White House work hard. But John is legendary, even in the White House, for working hard."
He is one of the hardest-working public servants I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure he’s slept in four years," he said to laughter. "When I was on Martha’s Vineyard, John came and did the press briefing -- this is in summer, it’s August, he’s in full suit and tie. And one of the reporters asked him, don’t you ever get any down time? And John said, 'I don’t do down time.' He’s not even smiling now," President Obama said as he glanced over at Brennan.
No mention was made during the announcement of the opposition to Chuck Hagel as pronounced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). "Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking, I believe, on most issues regarding foreign policy," said Senator Graham on CNN's “State of the Union" on Sunday morning.
The White House believes that Chuck Hagel will be approved by the United States Senate. John O. Brennan is also expected to be approved, with far less opposition than Hagel.
Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions, firstname.lastname@example.org.
John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African American studies, published by The Elevator Group Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books